|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 87, 98-05-07
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 87, 7 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION MAY BOYCOTT PRESIDENTIAL VOTEFive leading opposition figures released a joint statement on 5 May indicating that they would not participate in this fall's presidential elections if a new election law goes into effect, AFP reported on 6 May. Isa Gambar, Albufaz Elchibey, Lala Shovket, Ilyas Ismailov and Rasul Guliyev said the legislation gives the government of Heidar Aliyev an unfair advantage and will encourage vote fraud. Meanwhile, Aliyev granted amnesty to 81 convicts, including several involved in the attempted coup of October 1994, and he proposed a resolution to the parliament that would allow for pardoning 10,000 additional convicted criminals, Interfax reported. PG
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REINSTATES DASHNAK PARTYPresident Robert Kocharian issued a decree on 6 May lifting a ban on the activities of the Dashnak Party that had been imposed by his predecessor in December 1994, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Dashnak leaders told RFE/RL that they were pleased by Kocharian's move because he did not suggest that the Dashnak's were ever in violation of the law, as the Justice Ministry had implied in February 1998 when it lifted the ban on the basis of a finding that the Dashnaks were now in compliance with the law. PG
 ARMENIA: OUTSIDE PEACEKEEPERS MAY NOT BE NEEDED IN KARABAKHSpeaking in Bonn, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said on 6 May that there would be no need for any outside peacekeepers if all the parties to the conflict could reach agreement, Itar-Tass reported. In other comments, Oskanian praised Russia's role in helping to resolve the conflict and said that only proposals "without preliminary preconditions" have any chance of leading to a resolution of the conflict, an obvious swipe at the OSCE Minsk Group and the Lisbon Principles. PG
 KAZAKH CAPITAL BECOMES 'CAPITAL'Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on 6 May changing the name of the country's new capital from Akmola to Astana, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Nazarbayev said negative translations of the word "Akmola" prompted the move. The word can be translated as "white grave" or as Interfax reported on 6 May "white welfare." Astana, on the other hand, is the Kazakh word for "capital." When Kazakhstan became independent in 1991 the city was called Tselinograd. BP
 UZBEKISTAN CUTS GAS SUPPLIES TO KAZAKHSTAN BY HALFUzbekistan has cut supplies of natural gas to regions in southern Kazakhstan by nearly half, according to RFE/RL correspondents and ITAR- TASS. The Belgian company Tractabel, which is responsible for purchasing gas from Uzbekistan and delivering it to customers in Kazakhstan, cited unpaid bills from consumers in Kazakhstan as the reason the company could not pay its Uzbek supplier. Supplies were reduced from 40,000 cubic meters per hour to 25,000. BP
 KAZAKH PERIODICALS UNDER INVESTIGATIONKazakhstan's Procurator General's office has opened investigations into some of the country's periodicals, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported on 6 May. The statement released by the office did not specify which periodicals were under investigation and added that the names would not be released to the public until the investigations were over. The office said the periodicals are under examination for inciting "racial, tribal, ethnic and religious hatred." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO SAYS NO TROOPS TO ALBANIA...NATO ambassadors agreed at their weekly meeting in Brussels on 6 May to reject again Albania's calls for the alliance to establish a presence on that country's border with Kosova. An unnamed spokesman nonetheless told AFP that the alliance will try to help Albania help itself within the framework of the Partnership for Peace program. The spokesman added that NATO is "taking a second look" at an Italian proposal to hold maneuvers in Albania. Europe's poorest country wants a NATO presence because it is in no position to defend itself; its military has not recovered from the ravages of last year's anarchy. Albania's border with Kosova is mountainous and difficult to control completely. Tirana also feels that a NATO presence would deprive Belgrade of the excuse that its crackdown in the border region is a response to provocations from the Albanian side of the frontier. PM
 ...BUT PARIS, BONN WEIGH OPTIONSUnnamed German government officials told Reuters at the Franco-German summit in Avignon on 7 May that the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries are considering forms of military as well as political and economic pressure to end clashes in Kosova. The spokesmen added that France and Germany are seeking ways to pressure Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's government in particular. The officials stated that German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe believes that there are more ways of bringing military pressure to bear than just by helping Albania in the context of Partnership for Peace. PM
 CLINTON WILL NOT RULE OUT GROUND TROOPS FOR KOSOVAU.S. President Bill Clinton told a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Washington on 6 May that he does not rule out any options to help quell fighting in Kosova. "I don't think we can rule out any options because we don't want another Bosnia to happen," the president said. He added that the Serbs and Kosovars "obviously need to sit down and talk through how the legitimate aspirations of the Kosova Albanians can somehow be manifest in giving them some measure of self- government and decision-making authority over their lives within the framework of Serbia." Clinton stated that Italy should not be put in a position of having to "send troops to every one of its neighboring countries, [nor should] the United States [have] to send troops every time there's a dispute in that part of the world." PM
 GELBARD WARNS ON KOSOVARobert Gelbard, who is U.S. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on 6 May that Belgrade has totally mishandled the Kosova question and helped turn it into an international issue. He added that the United States. and its allies will not just watch as repression continues and violence escalates, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Gelbard stressed that delays in starting a dialogue will only benefit the extremists on both sides and hurt ordinary people. The envoy did not rule out new sanctions against Serbia, but said that Montenegro might be exempted from the measures. PM
 UCK TO TAKE WAR TO BELGRADE?Spokesmen for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told the BBC on 6 May that they would consider it an honor "to die for Kosova." When the reporter asked them if they plan to take the war to Belgrade in the manner in which the IRA took its campaign of violence to the British mainland, the spokesmen said that they rule out nothing in order to achieve their goal of an independent Kosova. In Kosova itself, low-level violence continues to claim several lives daily across the province. PM
 DJUKANOVIC: SANCTIONS NOT THE WAYMontenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told a press conference in Vienna on 6 May that blanket sanctions against Yugoslavia hurt the reformers and innocent people as well as the regime, "Die Presse" wrote. Sanctions, he continued, enable Milosevic to blame the international community for Yugoslavia's problems and to increase repressive measures at home, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" added. Djukanovic urged the international community instead to actively support the democratic forces in Yugoslavia. He said that he has no intention of taking Montenegro out of the Yugoslav federation but only of changing Milosevic's policies, which, he continued, are the root of Yugoslavia's problems. Djukanovic stated that Milosevic has tried hard to defeat the reformers in Montenegro, but that Djukanovic and team have prevailed. The Montenegrin leader stressed that his people will resist Serbian efforts to whip up popular support for a conflict in Kosova. PM
 PLAVSIC DETAINED AT VIENNA AIRPORTBorder police held Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic for one hour at Schwechat airport on 6 May because of a 1995 arrest warrant that they believed the Hague-based war crimes tribunal had issued for complicity in genocide, Radio Austria International reported. The police allowed her to continue on her way to London after judges at the tribunal told Austrian Interpol in a phone call that the court had never issued such a warrant. At Schwechat, Plavsic's staff also secured the intervention of Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, to help free Plavsic, "Nasa Borba" wrote. Plavsic subsequently expressed her displeasure over the incident. She visited Austria in February as the official guest of Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. PM
 NANO FREEZES BUDGET OVER KOSOVAPrime Minister Fatos Nano ordered stiff budget cuts on 6 May so that Albania will have some extra cash reserves because of the deteriorating situation in Kosova. Nano argued that "assistance for northern Albania, [which includes] transport and lodging and feeding [refugees], requires extra budget expenses." He added that "in case of a growing influx [of refugees], many ministries will need to considerably reduce their daily expenses and to limit their new investments." Immediate measure include cuts on foreign travel for government officials, personnel reductions, a ban on buying new official cars, and limitations on government use of electric energy, telephone and fuel. In addition, Nano ordered budget reviews for every four months to reassess the financial situation, "Koha Jone" reported. Customs revenues have proven lower than anticipated in the original budget, partly due to smuggling. Tax evasion also places a heavy burden on the budget. FS
 GUNMEN HIJACK NANO'S CARUnidentified gunmen stole the official car of Fatos Nano on 5 May in Tirana. The large black Mercedes limousine is easily identifiable as the prime minister's car by its license plate. The driver was alone in the vehicle at the moment of the carjacking. Despite increased police controls, robbers continue to steal luxury cars regularly. Earlier this year, robbers shot and injured a EU monitor and two British diplomats in separate carjacking attempts in and around Tirana (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 14 April 1998). FS
 MOLDOVA'S PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE SEEKS HUGE GROWTHIon Ciubuc said on 6 May that his proposed government will aim to expand the economy by 8 percent this year, Reuters reported. Ciubuc was addressing parliament after being formally nominated as prime minister by President Petru Lucinschi, who said the incumbent should "act more resolutely...maintain tough discipline, and pay more attention to solving macroeconomic problems." Ciubuc has two weeks to present a government for parliament's approval. Ciubuc pledged that relations with international financial institutions would "become more clear and definite." An envoy from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Chisinau on 7 May to discuss reopening a credit that was suspended last year after the parliament blocked proposed reforms in agriculture and industry. PB
 BULGARIA PREMIER REFUSES EU REQUEST TO CLOSE NUCLEAR PLANTIvan Kostov rejected a European Union proposal to close certain sections of the controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant due to safety concerns, AFP reported on 6 May. Kostov, who recently returned from Germany, claimed that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl supports his decision not to shut down the plant's two oldest reactors. Bulgaria has spent over $100 million in repairs on the plant and claims the plant no longer poses a danger, despite its Soviet design. Kostov said he has requested that the EU perform a new inspection of the plant, claiming the proposal that it be closed is based on outdated information. PB
 RULING WOULD LEAD TO RESTORATION OF BULGARIAN ROYALS' PROPERTYPublic prosecutor Ivan Tatartchev has ruled that a 1947 law that nationalized the property of the Bulgarian royal family is unconstitutional, AFP reported on 5 May. Bulgaria's former monarch, King Simeon II, said from his exiled home in Madrid that he was pleased that the restitution process could begin. Simeon has repeatedly called for property to be returned and the monarchy to be restored, but received no support from previous governments. Simeon was forced to leave Bulgaria by the Communists at age six. He returned for the first time in 1996. PB
[C] END NOTE
 READING FUNDAMENTALISM RIGHTBy Paul Goble
Many Central Asian leaders have failed to recognize that repressive policies are more likely to strengthen Islamic fundamentalism in their countries than to weaken or destroy it.
That they should make such a fundamental error is not surprising given their experiences in Soviet times, their desires to remain in power regardless of the consequences, and the often uncritical support they have received from Russia and the West for just such an approach.
But at least some Western leaders appear to be changing their views on this point. And that shift is likely to have major consequences for the policies of Central Asian governments over the longer term, even if -- as seems certain -- this change in the West will have little or no impact in the near term.
Two weeks ago, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislav Geremek, met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov to discuss how Tashkent is coping with a rising tide of Muslim activism both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia.
As he has before, Karimov insisted that Islamic fundamentalism was the main threat to stability in his country and across the region, that such a movement could either destabilize the situation as in Tajikistan or bring to power a theocratic regime as in Iran. And he further argued that the West must understand the need to take strong, even repressive measures against such Muslim activists.
In the past, such arguments often were sufficient to forestall most criticism from Western leaders who themselves fear instability or Iranian radicalism. But in a meeting that his spokesmen characterized as "frank," Geremek responded to Karimov in a way that suggests that era may be ending.
During his April 20 meeting with the Uzbek president, the Polish foreign minister pointed out that in many Muslim countries, government moves against what some call politicized Islam and others Islamic fundamentalism had actually strengthened these groups. Indeed, Geremek suggested, in many cases, such extremists had no chance to win power unless they were perceived as being persecuted.
Geremek's argument is interesting in three respects. First, it is not directly about human rights. Instead, it is about stability and thus challenges the claims of Karimov and others that their policies will work to control the situation. Second, it suggests that governments bear a heavy responsibility for how much Islamic fundamentalism there is: If they are repressive, there will be more. If they are not, there will be less of it.
And third, by focusing on the responsibility of individual governments for dealing with Islamic challenges, Geremek's argument undercuts those both in Uzbekistan and elsewhere who suggest that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading out like a tidal wave from Iran or Algeria or Afghanistan or some other center of infection.
Not surprisingly, Karimov has not been led to change his position overnight. Last Friday, for example, he told his country's parliament that Muslim activists were so danger that they "must be shot in the head." And he added that "if you lack the resolve, I'll shoot them myself." Unless the parliament was prepared to follow his lead, Karimov continued, "Tajikistan will come to Uzbekistan tomorrow."
In response, Uzbekistan's rubber-stamp parliament adopted a new "freedom of conscience" law that requires all religious groups with more than 100 members and all mosques to register with the state. This measure will give legal cover to what a variety of Western human rights groups, Western journalists and Western governments have described as Tashkent's increasingly repressive policies toward Islam.
Many officials across Central Asia undboutedly still feel that they have no choice but to follow Karimov's line, especially since until recently, they could count on nearly unanimous sympathy for such a position from both Russia and the West.
But now that Geremek has spoken out, perhaps ever more people there and elsewhere will begin to understand what a mistake it can be to purchase short-term control at the cost of long-term stability. And to the extent that happens, they can begin to correct a mistake that has already given rise to so many tragic consequences.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty